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County halts indoor restaurant service as COVID cases climb

REGION — After two weeks of rising COVID-19 cases, San Diego County public health officials have halted all indoor operations in businesses such as bars, restaurants, museums, zoos, cardrooms, theaters and family entertainment centers.

Outdoor dining will still be permitted for restaurants, as will delivery and takeout. The restrictions, which took effect this morning, will be in place for at least three weeks.

Breweries and pubs serving food must stop all on-site consumption, whether that be indoor or outdoor, but are allowed to remain open for curbside service of food and beverages, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said. Wineries and distilleries can have outdoor service. Officials did not clarify why the distinction was made between the alcohol-producing businesses.

“We must slow the spread of coronavirus now to allow our economy to open and thrive,” Fletcher said.

“Modest adjustments” like the ones announced Monday could help prevent full-scale closures once again, he said.

The changes are in line with restrictions imposed last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom on counties on the state’s coronavirus monitoring list, which now includes 23 counties. San Diego County was added to that list Friday, primarily due to the region’s rising rate of cases per 100,000 residents. San Diego County reported 129.3 cases per 100,000 on Monday, well above the state’s metric of 100 per 100,000. Counties on the list were ordered to close all bars, a move San Diego County had already taken ahead of the holiday weekend.

San Diego County was the final county in Southern California to be placed on the state’s monitoring list.

The new health orders came as officials reported 274 new cases Monday, the fewest reported since June 22. The number of COVID-19 cases reported locally since the pandemic began is now 17,000, and the number of deaths remains the same at 387.

Of the 7,667 tests reported Monday, 4% returned positive. The county’s 14-day average of daily positive tests is 5.3%.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said Monday that more bad news is likely coming.

“Deaths lag behind hospitalizations, which lag behind cases,” she said, comparing the pattern to what health officials see with seasonal influenza.

According to Wooten, of the 21 community outbreaks reported in the last seven days, 16 have occurred at restaurants or bars, including one Monday.

The number of new outbreaks is above the trigger of seven in seven days. A community setting is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases in a setting from different households.

San Diego County health officials reported 1,030 positive COVID-19 cases over the weekend. On Friday, 468 new cases were reported and another 562 were reported Saturday.

As of Saturday, cases requiring hospitalization totaled 1,912 or 11.2% of cases and hospitalized cases admitted to an intensive care unit totaled 516 or 3% of cases.

Wooten said people between the ages of 20 and 49 made up 57% of all reported COVID-19 cases to date.